District Connection - 8/5/19
Last week, the President signed H.R. 3877, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019.” As I noted in my previous newsletter, this bill came together with the agreement of House and Senate leadership and President Trump to address spending caps for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, spending offsets, and the debt limit all in a single bill.
As you would imagine, getting President Trump and Speaker Pelosi on the same page requires some creative legislative drafting. Certainly, this bill is not the one you or I would have written, but I would like to highlight some of our priorities that were successfully accomplished in it. For example, this bill ensures that our obligations to veterans and Social Security beneficiaries are funded. It makes increased investments in our military to rehabilitate our equipment currently in service, make new purchases to phase out old equipment, and provide our service members the pay raise they deserve. The bill also includes meaningful pro-life protections like the Hyde amendment to prevent federal funds from being used to pay for abortions.
Additionally, by having both sides of the aisle and both chambers agree on spending caps for the next two years, this bill eliminates the brinksmanship of “government shutdowns.” Last year, Congress successfully passed and enacted more funding bills than any other Congress in decades. This year, we could do even better. Given all of the uncertainty around the globe, self-inflicted chaos has no place in 2019, and this bill helps Congress and the White House to avoid it.
As I mentioned last week, my vote for this bill was not an endorsement of every line in this bill, but rather it was an acknowledgement that if this bill were to fail, the next proposal would be worse. So, while the conservative wins and opportunities for reform this agreement provides are worth celebrating, there is still much work to be done. I am hopeful that my friends on the other side of the aisle will recognize the serious challenges ahead and work with me to get our nation on a path to a sustainable fiscal future.
- The Washington Examiner. The budget agreement is a huge win for Trump's pro-life policies
- CBS News. Senate passes budget deal and suspends debt ceiling until 2021
Too often the newspapers and cable news spend their time talking about how Congress is dysfunctional instead of spending time on the ways in which Congress is working together for the betterment of the American people. One such effort, which should be especially interesting to those of us from Georgia, is the proposed merger between SunTrust and BB&T. The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on this merger on July 24th, and while there are certainly differences between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to enforcing the Dodd-Frank Act and various bank merger laws, it is gratifying to see the House properly use its oversight powers. We have laws in this country concerning mergers, market concentration, and monopolies for good reasons, and I look forward to the Senate moving forward with its examination in the near future.
Another step forward that you probably didn’t see in the news but should have been highlighted there is the passage of H.R. 3352, which reauthorizes the Department of State for FY20. This bill passed the House unanimously, and while you probably don’t realize it because the State Department has been funded every year, its authorization lapsed 16 years ago. That means that for the past 16 years, the State Department has been falling behind in important areas, especially in working on anti-piracy initiatives, updating embassy construction and security needs, reforming personnel matters, and updating our cooperative initiatives with foreign militaries and diplomatic institutions. I’m heartened that we were able to pass this bill with unanimous bipartisan support. Now it’s up to the Senate to do the same.
The House Democratic majority has made it crystal clear that addressing climate change is one of the biggest issues it wants to tackle. Nearly every committee, from Armed Services to Financial Services to Transportation and Infrastructure, a committee on which I serve, has held a hearing on one aspect or another of climate change. The Budget Committee, on which I also serve, held its second hearing of the year on climate change. While I wish that the Budget Committee was holding budget hearings instead, our first climate hearing was surprisingly productive, as both sides of the aisle agreed that the hyper-partisan “Green New Deal” was not the path forward and that we must come together to find bipartisan solutions if we are to move forward.
This second hearing focused on the costs of climate change and its potential impacts on America’s budget. Government so often does as much or more harm than good with new public policies; I used my time with the witnesses to explore “how to get it right.” For example, one of the witnesses, Ms. Stefani Grant from Unilever, testified on the carbon pricing initiatives that are in use among its subsidiary companies. Unilever is just one company, but it is currently using at least three different carbon pricing models, each designed to be most appropriate for the business unit it impacts. If a single company committed to pricing carbon can’t agree on what should be the right single price, clearly Congress—legislating for a divided America—is unprepared to set a single right price for all companies and consumers across the nation. Any agreement would undoubtedly have to be combined with the elimination of other nonsensical regulations and taxes, so that businesses and consumers could more efficiently partner to achieve shared goals.
Also focusing on the efficient use of resources, I asked Mr. Rich Powell, Executive Director of ClearPath, about a more efficient use taxpayer dollars than the system used to deploy clean energy solutions today. You can view my full remarks here.
The hard work of crafting a smart solution on behalf of the American people doesn’t require that we all agree on everything. Democrats can oppose the tax bill, but still work to make the tax cuts more effective for family businesses. Republicans can oppose the government takeover that was Obamacare but still work to ensure that families playing by the rules are protected from preexisting condition exclusions and lifetime caps. Climate change is the same. We aren’t required to agree on all of the how’s and why’s to agree that every federal tax committed to natural disaster mitigation and environmental stewardship be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. I hope that our hearing helped to bring members together on that “effective and efficient” goal.
As many of you may recall from a previous newsletter, the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) earlier this summer directing federal agencies and departments to take steps to improve price and quality transparency in our nation’s health care system. The good news is that just last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed payment policy for 2020 that looks to implement the goals of President Trump’s EO.
Specifically, the proposed rule applies to the Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Centers, and it includes a provision that would require hospitals to not only disclose to patients standard charges for common procedures, but also negotiated rates with insurance companies – a key element of President Trump’s goal to make health care more “shoppable” for consumers. What’s more, the proposed rule would require this information to be made public in an easy to compare, consumer-friendly manner, allowing consumers to compare costs across hospitals as well as determine what one’s out-of-pocket cost might be. That said, the proposed rule in question is just that, a proposed rule. As such, it will have to make its way through the public comment and regulatory processes before a decision is made on whether to finalize the proposal. With that said, I commend the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of CMS for advancing such a bold proposal and for their willingness to work with patients and stakeholders to obtain feedback and craft a rule that achieves the President’s goals.
- The Washington Post. Trump administration proposes first rule on health-care cost transparency
The relationship between the U.S. and Japan continues to be one of our most important partnerships on the international stage.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Japan’s Congressional Minister Kimitake Nakamura, who is the primary liaison between Congress and Tokyo, to discuss the positive impact of Japanese investments in the United States and how to counter Chinese expansion in the Pacific.
As confirmed by Friday’s jobs report, we currently have the lowest rate of unemployed Americans recorded since December 1969! This is good news for middle and working-class families in the 7th District because wages are increasing and they can count on job security for the long term.
Here are the biggest takeaways from July’s jobs report:
- The Labor Department reports that payrolls increased 164,000 during July
- Wages increased 3.2% year over year, topping expectations by one-tenth of a percentage point. Average weekly hours edged lower to 34.3
- The total labor force came in at a record-high 163.4 million participation
Our economy is booming! In Congress, I will always support pro-growth policies that build an inclusive and vibrant economy. As Georgians, we all win when wages increase, when unemployment is low, and when the American Dream is attainable to anyone who is willing to put in the work.
- Wall Street Journal. U.S. Economy Maintains Steady Jobs Growth
- CNBC. Payrolls rise 164,000 as labor force sets a record high
- Yahoo Finance. Jobs report shows US manufacturing defying gravity of US-China trade war
As many of you are aware, Hong Kong has been in the midst of weeks long protests in response to proposed legislation that would allow China to extradite individuals from Hong Kong to the mainland. An estimated one million people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to oppose the change. Many people right here in the 7th District have ties to China and Hong Kong—or simply sympathize with the people of Hong Kong’s plight—and have written in to share their thoughts with me:
Manchun from Buford:
Dear Mr. Woodall, I am writing to you in regard to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, commonly known as the Extradition Law in Hong Kong. The proposed ordinance has triggered a protest by over a million citizens in Hong Kong and is now being brought up to the international attention. As a U.S. citizen who grew up in Hong Kong and has family ties there, this is a pressing issue that needs your help to speak for us, current U.S. citizens who have close ties with Hong Kong and future U.S. citizens from Hong Kong. On June 13, 2019, U.S. Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio reintroduced the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which McGovern stated clearly that “This legislation makes clear that the U.S. Congress stands with the people of Hong Kong in their effort to preserve human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong...”
I sincerely ask that you take action to support the reintroduction of the house bill in the Senate in the 116th Congress, plus any punitive actions that the Congressional Executive Commission on China and your other congressional colleagues may take in regard to the situation in Hong Kong. At the same time, I ask that all sanctions include clauses that protect the interests of hundreds of thousands Hongkongers currently in the US who had been in Hong Kong before July 1, 1997, for immigration and security purposes. While the US should rightly re-examine its relationship with Hong Kong for security purposes, in light of the Extradition Law, I do not want to suffer collateral damage from the venomous actions of China with no fault of my own. Passing the Extradition Law will not only dangerously affect local Hong Kongers, American-Hong Kongers, but also U.S. citizens who travel to Hong Kong for business or leisure purposes. The Chinese government has had a history of arresting and holding foreigners to pressure US allies. The Extradition Law is a foreshadow that the Chinese government may capture U.S. citizens as bargaining chips, if any issues arise. For security reasons, for the good of U.S. citizens and nationals, for the sake of preserving human rights and freedom, I kindly ask that you take the best efforts to support the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, to go against the Extradition Law and protect our future.
Maggie from Cumming:
I am writing to urge that my representative support and co-sponsor the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019" (H.R. 3289 / S. 1838). The United States has significant business interests in Hong Kong as a major international financial hub. In June 2019, the city saw massive protests against a Fugitive Offenders Ordinance proposal that would have affected global citizens even simply transiting through the city to be extradited to China for an unfair trial. When the Hong Kong government refused to completely withdraw the proposal, ongoing social unrest ensues. It is vital that the United States act to protect a democratic system in Hong Kong, for its own business and geopolitical interests and for the over 85,000 American citizens residing in the city.
The "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019" would reaffirm the United States' commitment to support human rights of people of Hong Kong and democratization of the city's political system, by way of protection of citizens involved in peaceful protests and punishment of human rights violators within the capacity of the United States government. It will also keep the Hong Kong government from resuming the legislation on the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance. Currently, the bill is garnering bipartisan support. I look forward to seeing the passing of this bill before the end of this congressional session.
As you may know, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which was created by Congress in 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, is a bipartisan commission made up of members of the House, the Senate, and the Administration. It is tasked with submitting an annual report to Congress detailing legislative proposals advancing human rights and the rule of law in China, and the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” is just one of those proposals. As Maggie and Manchun said above, this bill reaffirms America’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy. While the administration of Hong Kong was handed over from the British to the Chinese in 1997, the agreement guaranteed that Hong Kong’s “capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years” until the year 2047. However, as the recent protests indicate, China is failing to keep that promise. The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” would require the U.S. Secretary of State to certify Hong Kong’s autonomy in order to maintain its special treatment and trade status with the U.S., requires the President to identify those responsible for the abductions of Hong Kong citizens who have spoken out against mainland China, and includes other steps to ensure U.S. interests are in Hong Kong are protected. This bill has been introduced in every Congress since the 113th Congress but has never advanced, though the current situation in Hong Kong is highlighting the need for action. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is urging China to “do the right thing” and “proceed in a way that is not violent.” And as you might expect, the discussion of Hong Kong is bleeding over into the tariff and trade talks that are already underway between China and the U.S. We can all agree that China must keep its promise to Hong Kong. Congress, the Administration, and the world are partnering to ensure exactly that.
The new school year is officially underway, and it’s already shaping up to be an exciting year. We are so fortunate to have so many educators, administrators, and parents who are committed to making sure that our children have opportunities to succeed in school. That commitment is what has continually led to our communities’ reputation of excellence in education across the state of Georgia, and I am pleased to share the news that their hard work continues to be recognized at a national level as well. In fact, Collins Hill High School Principal Kerensa Wing was recently selected as one of three finalists for Principal of the Year nationwide, after having been selected earlier this year as Georgia Principal of the Year. The National Association of Secondary School Principals is set to announce the overall winner this October in Washington, D.C. We are certainly proud of her efforts and this well-deserved recognition!
- Gwinnett Daily Post. Collins Hill principal Kerensa Wing named finalist for National Principal of the Year award
Earlier this spring, U.S. News & World Report released its list of top schools nationwide, and that list included several schools in our community as among the best in the country. In light of this news, it should come as no surprise that our Forsyth County Schools are going even further to ensure that our students are among the most competitive in the country. In that endeavor, the Chamber of Commerce and Forsyth School system hosted their first-ever “State of Schools” event to shed light on new plans to continue academic and athletic success and expand business partnerships. Our greatest achievements are the result of a collaborative partnership between all of those in our community, and I am always glad to report on the hard work that is being done to make our home a better place to live.
- Forsyth County News. Chamber of Commerce, Forsyth School system host inaugural State of the Schools event
Like you, I am shocked by the violence that took place in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend. As a community, we say with one voice, and with finality, that hate and violence have no home here. While local law enforcement agencies continue to gather information, all of the resources of federal law enforcement are at their disposal. The affected communities will be supported with whatever they need -- whether legal resources or mental health/counseling resources or more. There is a cancer of violence in our culture. It's symptoms are seen in individual communities, but it is a cultural cancer that affects every corner of our nation.
In an effort to prevent future mass shootings, I have co-sponsored H.R. 1339, the “Mass Violence Prevention Act,” which enhances penalties for theft of a firearm and establishes a Mass Violence Prevention Center. In addition, I have co-sponsored H.R. 838, the “Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety (TAPS) Act,” which creates a task force of experts in this field who will assist in the creation of a national strategy to prevent targeted violence through threat assessment and management. This program, which already exists at the federal level to protect elected officials, will provide resources, training, and assistance in establishing and operating locally driven threat assessment and management units throughout the country.
Member of Congress